Justine Lindsay, of the Carolina Panthers’ Top Cats cheer squad, just became the first openly trans cheerleader in the NFL.
Sharing the news on Instagram, the 29-year-old announced, "Cats Out the Bag you are looking at the newest member of the Carolina Panthers TopCats Cheerleaders @topcats as the first Transgender female.”
Going on to thank her TopCats family and coach Chandalae Nouette, Lindsay said she’s proud to be a part of a new legacy in the NFL. Nouette shared with BuzzFeed News that Lindsay’s outstanding talent, beyond her legacy, landed her the spot on the squad.
“My goal is to create a team of individuals that are absolute fire on the field, but are incredible human beings in the locker room, good friends, good people, and at the end of the day, you have to walk through the door first to get to that spot," she said.
Lindsay's appointment is a significant step for the traditionally conservative NFL, of which Black women make up only 17 percent of the league's cheer squads.
The hair of Black NFL cheerleaders has also been a point of contest, with few wearing their natural hair. In her post, Lindsay is bald and beautiful, happy to "inspire other young girls who may be insecure rocking their bald look."
Lindsay is a testament to the importance of visibility of the trans community. “I think more people need to see this,” she told BuzzFeed. “It’s not because I want recognition. It’s just to shed light on what’s going on in the world.”
Lindsay embodies the multitudes of trans women, who're often deemed either deemed too sexual or too strong within the athletic community. "I’m happy because I was able to break down the door and tell people, ‘Hey, we are not just sexual beings,'" Lindsay said. "We are actual human beings who want to better ourselves."
Amid swirling legislation inhibiting the gender expression of young trans people, Lindsay offers a sense hope and a beacon of positivity, proving she’s a cheerleader in the truest sense.
Photo via Instagram